Eliza and Her Monsters

Eliza and Her Monsters

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Made You Up

Synopsis:

Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the author’s debut novel, Made You Up, so much so that I had Eliza and Her Monsters pre-ordered. I may have only got around to reading it this January, but I still had faith that I’d enjoy it based on her debut. I wasn’t wrong. Eliza and Her Monsters is a fantastically geeky YA read. I lapped it up!

The story centres around Eliza who, online, is LadyConstellation. She is the anonymous creator of the very popular webcomic ‘Monstrous Sea’. Eliza is very different in real life. She’s quiet, weird and without friends. She really is the polar opposite online, but Eliza wants to keep her online world purely online. Eliza is made to look out for a new transfer student at school named Wallace. She finds out that he’s a super fan of ‘Monstrous Sea’ and writes fanfiction about it! Wallace begins to bring Eliza out of her shell (he simply thinks she’s a fan of the webcomic) and Eliza wonders if a life offline would be so bad. Unfortunately, Eliza’s identity is revealed and life turns completely upside down.

Eliza and Her Monsters is unique because of the way it’s told. It uses illustrations from her webcomics and online chats with her friends on the ‘Monstrous Sea’ forums. It was really important to see this in the story because it made it so much more realistic. Eliza’s life was online and this made it totally believable. I love books that experiment with social media/internet extracts. It’s modern, it’s fun but it doesn’t always work. However, Francesca Zappia really writes it well!

Eliza is a fabulous character who I can imagine many people relating to. I know I saw a lot of myself in Eliza. Eliza found life online much easier to handle than the real world. Eliza was completely different to the rest of her family. She was quiet and anxious and didn’t get social cues as much as others. I loved that you could still tell how much Eliza’s family cared for her even if they left her to her own devices. They knew that’s what Eliza wanted. Wallace was a good addition to the story and I loved how he was bringing her out of her shell and encouraging her to step outside of her comfort zone. He never forced her and was patient. I loved that.

I also appreciated the portrayal of Eliza’s panic attacks. In general, her anxiety was incredibly well represented. The reader could clearly see how it was affecting Eliza’s life and how there wasn’t just a magic fix.

This is a fabulous second novel from Francesca Zappia. I was impressed!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderfully geeky story, but one that also has a 10/10 representation of anxiety!

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A Quiet Kind Of Thunder

A Quiet Kind of Thunder

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Beautiful Broken Things

Synopsis:

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. 

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Sara Banard’s debut novel so I was super excited to get to read A Quiet Kind Of Thunder. I always worry when I enjoy a debut so much because sometimes the next book can’t quite live up to it. However, A Quiet Kind Of Thunder was a stunning read which was both cute and moving at the same time.

It centres around Steffi who has been unable to talk to others that aren’t close to her. She is a selective mute. It doesn’t mean she chooses not to speak, she physically finds it difficult and can’t speak to others. No one has ever been able to put their finger on why Steffi can’t speak to others. There are a lot of things that have happened in Steffi’s young life, but the selective mutism came before some tragic events. Steffi is starting sixth form with the pressure of some new people and having to talk as her best friend has moved to college. Steffi knows staying at sixth form is easier, because others are aware of her difficulties. A new guy, Rhys, starts the sixth form. He is deaf and she is asked to be his guide because she knows sign language. Rhys and Steffi begin to build a beautiful friendship. He helps her learn more about sign language and Steffi helps him around sixth form. Gradually they grow closer and develop feelings for one another. They become very dependent on one another. It’s the sweetest thing!

This book won’t be for every reader as it is quite sickly sweet with the romance. However, I was fully on board with it. It was a cute, believable romance. It wasn’t just about that though. It was about Steffi’s journey to recovery. Life wasn’t easy for her just because she had found someone. I appreciated the representation of selective mutism and social anxiety. It wasn’t an easy fix and I adore that in a book. Give me more realistic mental health books! 🙂

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I highly recommend this sweet read!

Girl In Pieces

Girl in Pieces

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

Thoughts:

I knew that this book was going to be a heavy reading experience given its subject matter. It was incredibly tricky to read but so beautifully written. I would definitely give it a trigger warning because I can imagine it would affect many people if they have dealt with the issues raised in this book. Kathleen Glasgow’s story is fantastic at representing realistically how tough it is to live with a mental illness. She did give a glimmer of hope for the character, which I appreciated amongst the darkness.

The story centre around Charlie who is in a bad place. She’s only seventeen but has gone through a lot in her life. She self harms with glass to sooth her pain and feel calm. Each time Charlie cuts her heart gets a little harder. Charlie has to go through a lot to get her back to ‘normal.’

Even though this book is marketed at the Young Adult market, it reads like a lot older. I know teenagers/young adults do struggle with their mental health so it’s not the subject matter, it’s the general feel of it and lack of young adults in the story. Charlie is the only young adult in the story! Even the romantic interest is much older than Charlie.

I struggled a little with the pace of this book. I am usually gripped by books about mental health but this one felt like a chore to get through. There were moments of brilliance which I really appreciated and I felt like some phrases were incredibly relatable. I did appreciate how Charlie wasn’t a perfect character. She kept on making terrible decisions. Life wasn’t instantly easy for her and that’s real life. I do think this is a good book and an important story, it’s just not one that particularly stood out for me.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Beautifully written, if a little slow!

The Names They Gave Us

The Names They Gave Us

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.

Thoughts:

I am a huge fan of Emery Lord’s writing. I think it’s a lot deeper than you might expect. Nearly every book of hers has broke my heart in one way or another. They’re emotional and character driven. What more could I want?

It centres around Lucy Hansson. Her life has been going well, until her mother’s cancer reappears. Lucy then starts to question everything in her life. She questions her steady faith, her boyfriend who is practically perfect in every way and her long term summer church camp job. Her mother asks her to work at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. Lucy thinks it’s all too much for her, but then she begins to know her coworkers and they help her learn a lot about herself. She learns more about her family and her faith than she ever expected.

There’s something about Emery Lord’s characters that really pull me in. With this story, I was completely rooting for the main character, Lucy, she had such a beautiful relationship with her parents. I loved how even though she had strong faith, it never felt pushed upon you. Instead, Lucy’s faith was never a stereotype that you can quite often see in books involving characters with strong faith. As well as Lucy’s relationship with her parents, the friendships with her coworkers was absolutely heart-warming. Lucy’s character growth throughout this book really is astounding. You can see her changing as the story continues. I loved that she questioned her faith and also that she  realised at times, she prejudged others. She is by far, one of my favourite characters in recent reads.

As usual with an Emery Lord book, it had incredibly diverse characters. There were all different types of representation including sexuality and those suffering with a mental illness. It really was a well thought out, beautifully character driven story.

This story really packed an emotional punch for me. I have read other stories with characters suffering from cancer, but this book was so much more than that. It’ll stay with me for a while!

I don’t often do this, but here are some of my favourite quotes from the story…

“You can be okay again. Just a different kind of okay than before.”
“Hasn’t Daybreak shown me, day after day, that people can outlast unbelievable pain? That human hearts are like noble little ants, able to carry so much more weight than you’d expect.”
“I believe in people. In their resilience, in their goodness.”
“But if I can walk through the fire and, with blistered skin, still have faith in better days? I have to believe that’s good enough.”

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A stunning read. One I won’t forget in a hurry!

History Is All You Left Me

History Is All You Left Me

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
More Happy Than Not

Synopsis:

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. 

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. 

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed More Happy Than Not but this book completely surpassed it in my opinion. It was such a touching read. I knew it was going to be a heart-breaking one as I had heard as much, but I didn’t expect it to have such an impact on me. Adam Silvera is a truly beautifully writer.

History Is All You Left Me centres around Griff who has just lost his first love and ex-boyfriend in a tragic accident. Theo had moved to California for college and started a new relationship with a guy called Jackson. Griffin always thought that Theo would come back to him, but now the future has completely turned around for Griffin. The only person that understands his heartache is Jackson. Even though they begin to open up to one another, Griffin is spiralling out of control. His compulsions are getting worse and secrets are tearing him apart. To move on, Griffin is going to have to face up to his history.

I loved that this story flipped between past and present times. I’m always tentative when I know a book jumps about between time periods, but for this book it really did work. I loved reading about their history and how they were doing in present times. It really made me feel like I could get to know the characters. The characters are so well written. They are absolutely messed up which is understandable considering a very special guy to them has died. I could feel Griffin’s pain through the pages and although I don’t agree with everything he did, I could understand why he had acted in that way.

As for the representation of OCD? A round of applause to Adam Silvera. I don’t have OCD myself, but have several friends who do and the representation was so well done. I could really sympathise with Griffin.

There is romance in this book. A lot of romance. I have mixed feelings about it. I loved Griffin and Theo’s relationship and was rooting for them at the start. Then when he moved away to California everything started to get a little messy. Actually I lie, very, very messy! There was a lot of heartache between many characters and so much hurt. This certainly isn’t an ‘easy’ read.

This book is heartbreaking, but so very worth reading. It’s a beauty that’s for sure and I can’t wait to read Adam Silvera’s most recent book!

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A beautiful read. I didn’t expect to like this one as much!

Ten Gems In Mental Health Literature

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wonderful The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s list is a hidden gems list. Now, these books aren’t so much hidden, but I decided they needed some airing on my blog this week because they are gems. I love reading books that centre around mental health/illness and think they’re worth airing even if some of them are quite popular!

Click on the book image to get to the Goodreads page for the book! 🙂

The Silver Linings Playbook- Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook

This book is told in such a unique voice. I think this book is much deeper than the film. I enjoyed Matthew Quick’s portrayal of Pat.

Lighter Than My Shadow- Katie Green

Lighter Than My Shadow

This is a hefty book. It’s huge and it’s quite heavy going in its nature. It’s about Katie’s struggle with an eating disorder.

Am I Normal Yet?- Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet? (The Spinster Club, #1)

I absolutely adored this book. Holly Bourne is such a beautiful writer and she represented mental illness wonderfully. This is such an addictive YA read.

Reasons To Stay Alive- Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive

I adore Matt Haig’s raw honesty in this book. There are some dark moments, but this book is hopeful.

My Heart and Other Black Holes- Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes

There are some incredibly poignant moments and memorable sections in this book. I found it incredibly powerful to read.

Belzhar- Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar

I really enjoyed this book despite it having quite mixed reviews. It’s unique and wonderfully written.

Perfect Escape- Jennifer Brown

Perfect Escape

I enjoyed reading this book which centres around a girl experiencing her brother’s problems with OCD. It was interesting to read about the impact it can have on a family member.

The Shock Of The Fall- Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall

This book doesn’t hold back when exploring mental illness. It’s such an intense, powerful read.

Undone- Cat Clarke

Undone

This book was so moving. It’s ending actually put a lump in my throat.

Highly Illogical Behaviour- John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior

This book was absolutely stunning. I was blown away by the writing. I shall definitely be reading more from John Corey Whaley.

What are your hidden gems this week? Feel free to leave a link to your post and I’ll stop by!

Banned Books #38 Thirteen Reasons Why

banned books

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month, we read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Synopsis:

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. 

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

First published: 2007
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2012 (source)
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I always think of this book as a really recent release (maybe because of the series released on Netflix?) so I was really surprised when I saw that it had been originally published in 2007. Ten years is really not much time for attitudes to change in such a drastic way so my answers to this and the next question are going to be the same but I will go into some of the reasons why this book has been challenged/banned. Obviously, the drugs/alcohol/smoking thing does happen in the book but it’s never portrayed in a particularly “things to do that are cool,” way  and, to be honest, I think you’re going to be hard pressed to find a young adult book that doesn’t have an element of that lifestyle. Occasionally, I think it’s almost like a rite of passage that (some) teenagers have to go through to experiment/push boundaries and then decide that these things really aren’t for them. I certainly don’t see why this would be a good reason to challenge/ban the book.

CHRISSI: I read this book back in 2014, several years after it had been released. I had heard all of the hype around it and seen so many reviews of it around the blogosphere. So I knew before I read it that I was getting into quite a contentious read. I can understand why this book would be challenged as it has some particularly sensitive subject matter. However, should it be banned? In my opinion, no. There are television programmes that are contain much worse subject matter. Nearly every book for young adults contain ‘bad’ things as these are things that young people experience. I do understand that this book could be potentially triggering to some, but I believe it is a book that should be available. We should trust young people to make their own choices when it comes to reading a book like this. If literature is out there like this it starts a conversation. We need those conversations and young people to be able to feel like they can be heard and understood.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! I also feel the same way with the “sexually explicit” reason. There are a couple of horrific moments in the novel that make for uncomfortable reading and may pose a few trigger warnings for anybody particularly sensitive to those topics but again, it really isn’t done in a gratuitous fashion and isn’t really heavy on the intimate details so again, not a great reason for banning the book outright – perhaps a gentle warning on the cover would suffice? Finally there is the element of suicide which is the main and probably most shocking element of the novel. To be honest, I’m not sure what to say about this. It’s never going to be easy reading about a young person killing themselves and all the reasons why they did it but I don’t think this book in any way glamorises suicide. In fact, it may encourage suicidal teenagers to talk about how they are feeling with someone before they try to harm themselves if used in the right way.

CHRISSI: I feel the same way. This book does centre around suicide and I know that’s not a nice thing to read about. It does make for uncomfortable reading. The sexually explicit content is also uncomfortable to read, but it’s not something that I think authors should avoid. As I said before, conversations need to be had. I personally don’t think that the author glamorised suicide.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed this book. I had already heard mixed opinions about it from my sister and when I read the novel I could completely see where she was coming from. Hannah’s voice didn’t come across in the best way at times and I really wasn’t sure about her method of using tapes to tell people why she killed herself. However, then Chrissi watched the Netflix series and urged me to do the same. I watched the first episode earlier and thought it was pretty great (I understand there’s been a lot of controversy around this series too but as I said, I’ve only watched the first episode so far!). I think it’s like most hard-hitting books really. In the hands of more sensitive people who have issues with the topics discussed it might not be advisable but in the right hands, I think it could also help a lot of people too.

CHRISSI: I actually enjoyed this book more the second time reading it. I remember having some issues with Hannah’s voice when I read it the first time. She frustrated me a lot and I wanted her to do more for herself. I still had the same issue with Hannah’s voice, but I felt I could understand Hannah more this time around. I think over time I have come to understand mental health more. I think the Netflix series is absolutely fantastic. I know they changed some parts of the book, but I really appreciated how it was handled. It was uncomfortable viewing, just like the book is uncomfortable reading. As I’ve mentioned throughout this post though, both the book and the TV series are encouraging conversations and that’s what is vitally important to me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!